On becoming generous

One of the many (MANY) things that I love about our church is its commitment to being involved in our city, especially in the neighborhood around the church. Probably every church I’ve ever been a part of has had some form of outreach, but this church blows me away…and brings me to my knees, aware of my need to change and grow.

Our church is downtown, in an older part of the city.  Over the last few years, over 100 families from the church have moved downtown, believing that God had called them to invest in those  neighborhoods and in the lives of the people who live there.  They bought homes, renovated them, got to know their neighbors, ministered to the neighbor kids and supported one another as fellow Christians AND neighbors.

The church also started a school for the underprivileged children in the area. The woman who teaches music there told me, “Children remember what they sing. My whole goal is to get as much scripture into those kids as I can, during the time that they are with me.” She’s a doctor’s wife who doesn’t need the income…she is investing in the families in her community, doing her best to make a difference in their lives.

The church has started a number of other ministries in the area: outreaches to the medical campus, to other campuses, a medical mission, a ministry for post-college students to minister downtown. It seems I learn about a new ministry every week.

Today the girls and I had a play date with a new friend, one of the families who lives downtown.  She calmly – matter of factly! – told me stories of grilling out with the drug dealer who lived 2 doors down, and the drive-by shootings that have occurred on their street.  Of busing kids to a summer camp in another state. Of children who come play at her house every day, though their parents don’t know her at all.  I was amazed, blown away completely by the impact that these families have had on their community.

We came home, and some of our neighbor kids came over. One of them asked for a glass of milk, and I heard my daughter reply, “My mom doesn’t like neighbor kids to drink our milk. You can have water.”


It makes so much sense in my head (she can go home and get a drink!), but when I heard my child say it, especially in light of the conversations I had had that afternoon, I realized how far I have to go. I am not a generous person. I want to be, but I am not the kind of person who can show love to a drug dealer who is selling drugs to shady people two houses down from where my children sleep.

Apparently, I’m not even the kind of person who can share a glass of milk with the kid who lives across the street.

A couple of weekends ago, our neighbors had a yard sale. And, because children are drawn to other people’s junk like moths to a flame, my kids grabbed their wallets and ran over there to search for treasure.  I walked over to say hello, and my neighbor confided that her husband had lost his job, and the yard sale was an attempt to keep the power on.

I felt sorry for them. I wanted to help.  I thought – quite a lot, actually – about showing God’s love to my neighbors in a tangible way.  I did buy them a pizza.  But I couldn’t figure out what to do after that.

I mean, they have 5 cars in their driveway. Five. Why not sell one? (Or four.)  They both smoke. Why not cut back on that expense? Maybe he did something really wrong to lose his job.  Maybe they’ve made many, many poor decisions and helping them at this point is just enabling those bad decisions.  What if I help them and they see “SUCKER” written across my forehead and take advantage of me?

I don’t for a minute think this is how Jesus wants me to think about helping others.  But where is the line between helping someone and being taken advantage of? The line between investing in the community around you and endangering your family?

Maybe there isn’t a line.  Jesus said if someone takes your coat, give them your shirt, too.   Lord, forgive me. Teach me to be generous.  Obviously, I have a long way to go.

About waymel

Navy wife. Homeschooling mom. Adoptive parent. Pianist. Introvert. One who loves quiet and beauty.
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8 Responses to On becoming generous

  1. Jerusha says:

    For what it’s worth, I would have similar thoughts about the five cars and the cigarettes. But then I too might feel bad about having them. The important thing is to be Spirit-led, not just social-consciousness-led…big difference. Sounds like your church is doing great things. :o)

  2. shirley wilmoth says:

    this is beautiful. We all have so much to learn. We all need the mind of Christ. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Joy says:

    Beautiful blog post, Melanie! I have a LONG way to go too. The very word “outreach” makes me nervous, and even when reading that word within your post, I felt nervous. How sad is that???

  4. Joy says:

    Oh, and by the way…I had the same problem with our neighbors and popsicles. The kids would hang over the fence and say, “Ryley, go ask your mom if we can have popsicles.” I did it once, but then they asked if they could have a second one and a third. And this became a regular occurence. It REALLY bothered me. Yes, it was strange, but I’m not proud of how I told Ryley to tell them no. I think about it now, and those kids don’t live there anymore. What if we were the only Christians they ever meet?

  5. Jen says:

    Wow. What a good post.
    I suppose the argument could be made that helping someone in Jesus’ name is never “endangering” anyone…
    Haha Joy made me laugh– that word “outreach” strikes fear in my heart, too. Guess we all have a long way to go.

  6. Robyn says:

    I hear you — I would think the same thing and I wrestle with the same thing. Do I help someone when they haven’t taken the steps they “should” (by my definition) to help themselves? Or do I cast off my fears of being a sucker and just help? I guess if I’m honest with myself, I would do better to error on the side of just helping. This was a great honest post.

    Just today I bought a coffee and the guy at the register before me didn’t have enough for whatever he was getting. “I’ll see if I have a dollar in the car,” I heard him say as I walked out, with $20 in my wallet. I hestitated. I thought about walking back. I should have.

  7. sheryl says:

    thank you for sharing your “ouch” moment.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I just read a chapter about this last night in a book I am reading! It stung me, too, but I kept the page and I’m going to read it again tonight. The question was (amazingly coincidentally) should we help people who are needy for reasons of their own doing? And the answer was, of course, yes, that none of us are worthy of mercy and God has given us grace anyway. None of “deserves” it any more or less and if we decide that some people aren’t worthy, we are in danger of being the like the unmerciful servant in the parable who was forgiven much but couldn’t forgive. I need to learn this, too. It doesn’t come naturally for me, either.

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